Memories of reading with his children or jamming in his friend’s basement have formed the basis of a new children’s book for a South Delta author.
Author, illustrator and animator Ken Priebe has independently published Gnomes of the Cheese Forest and Other Poems, a collection of poems and drawings for young people of all ages.
A resident of Ladner with his wife and two children, Priebe has been an animator for more than 20 years, alongside his day job in communications at Vancouver Institute of Media Arts (VanArts).
He has taught at several colleges, written textbooks on animation and worked on several animated films. He has also taught animation workshops for kids at the annual Imagine That summer arts camp in Ladner.
Now expanding into children’s books of his own, Priebe has been working for the past six years on a collection of illustrated poetry, of which Gnomes of the Cheese Forest is his first volume, with more books intended to follow. Gnomes was officially released last summer, and in fall 2018 it was nominated for a Cybils Award (Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards).
“I think it [writing] started when I was reading children’s books out loud to my own kids, particularly the ones I grew up with, Dr. Seuss, and then there was another book called the Tomato Collection, which also gave me some inspiration to see about writing poetry again,” he said. “As a kid I wrote poetry all the time. Writing my own stories has always been there and in the background, so it sparked an idea and once I started I couldn’t stop, ideas flowed freely.”
Gnomes of the Cheese Forest was inspired by his college band.
“I had some buddies from high school where we jammed and recorded songs in my friend’s basement and improvise some weird ideas, so that really stuck with me,” he recalled. “When I started writing I would think back to other creative projects that I had done in years past to see if there were any nuggets and that was one that really stood out for me. I wanted the title of the book to be something that people would say and sound funny. Out of all the titles I had that seemed to be the one that would be the best hook.”
He said some of the poems in the book are based on things his kids have done or said, while others are based on dreams he has had or ideas he’s not really sure where he got.
“All of these experiences, my kids, my life, serve as inspiration,” he said.
Gnomes of the Cheese Forest is available online or wherever books are sold, and can also be requested from the Fraser Valley Regional Library catalogue.
Priebe has also started doing author visits for elementary schools in South Delta and Richmond, reading his poems, sharing original artwork and talking to kids about the creative process of making books.